Ailanthus altissima

Ailanthus altissima_tree-of-heaven_JM DiTomaso_cropped
Photo: Joseph DiTomaso

Synonyms: A. glandulosa Desf.

Common names: tree-of-heaven; Chinese sumac; paradise-tree; copal-tree

Ailanthus altissima (tree-of-heaven) is a deciduous tree (family Simaroubaceae) that is widely, but somewhat discontinuously distributed in California. It is native to parts of China and Taiwan and first introduced as a landscape ornamental to Europe and the United States in the 1700’s. Since then, it has escaped gardens, established in the wild, and spread widely through seeds and creeping roots that produce many suckers. In California, it is most abundant along the coast and mountain foothills, primarily in wastelands and disturbed, semi-natural habitats. Tree-of-heaven is considered invasive because of its ability to establish, spread quickly and dominate landscapes, as well as its allelopathic properties, which help to suppress surrounding vegetation. It can be distinguished by its large, pinnately compound leaves with often asymmetrical lanceolate leaflets. Leaves can smell like rancid peanut butter when crushed (unlike similar-looking walnut trees). Stems will show large heart-shaped leaf scars. Fruits are samaras. More recently, concern about tree-of-heaven has increased because it is a preferred host for a destructive and invasive insect pest, the spotted lanternfly.

Cal-IPC Rating: Moderate?

CDFA Rating: C*?


Plant Assessment Form - Information gathered by Cal-IPC on the impacts, rate of spread, and distribution of invasive plants in California. Does not include management information.

Species ID Card

Invasive Species ID Card - To support field identification of early detection species, Cal-IPC has designed a set of Species ID cards that can be downloaded, printed double-sided, and trimmed to size.

Weed Management Notes

  • Management Notes - Information on management techniques and effectiveness from the University of California Cooperative Extension’s Weed Research & Information Center.

Cal-IPC Newsletter Articles

Cal-IPC Symposium Presentations

Presentations are linked where available. Where a presentation is not available, find more information by reading the abstract in the Cal-IPC Symposia Archive.

Other Ailanthus altissima Information

  • Bugwood - National database from the Center for Invasive Species and Ecosystem Health at the University of Georgia.
  • CalPhotos - Images of plants taken mostly in California.
  • Calflora - Distribution map and records of this species in California.
  • CalWeedMapper - Distribution map of this species in California with ability to determine regional priorities.
  • EDDMapS - Distribution of this species in North America.
  • Jepson Interchange - Information on this plant's taxonomy, biology, and distribution from UC Berkeley's Jepson Herbarium.
  • USDA PLANTS Database - Information on identification and distribution, with links to websites in individual states.
  • Additional photos

    Ailanthus altissima_tree-of-heaven_Bob Case_cropped
    Ailanthus altissima (tree-of-heaven) infestation. Photo: Bob Case
    Ailanthus altissima_tree-of-heaven leaves_Bob Case_cropped
    Ailanthus altissima (tree-of-heaven) leaves. Photo: Bob Case
    Ailanthus altissima_fruits (immature)_copyright2009_NealKramer
    Ailanthus altissima (tree-of-heaven) fruits (immature). Photo: &#169 2009 Neal Kramer